Comment - It's easy to scoff but defiant Tiger Woods should be pitied not mocked
So, less than a month into his long-awaited comeback, it has already come to this. Tiger Woods is not even fit enough to stage a press conference, never mind stage a fairytale return to the winner’s enclosure.
Of course, many a cynic will have giggled, if not guffawed, at the announcement which came late on Tuesday and enquire what colour the sky happens to be in the world of those of us who believe he could not visit the media centre at the Genesis Open because of “medical advice”.
Yet, although Woods, and, more pertinently, his camp, have played footsie with the truth on more than one occasion, one thing he has always remained genuine to is his charity. Woods is not planning on doing any promotional work at the Riviera event which supports his foundation this week and as someone who has gone out of his way to raise attention and thus funds for disadvantaged children that will hurt. But that is where he is at the moment. In pain and at a loss of what to do next.
Imagine being a 41-year-old and, after coming back after an 18-month absence, being told by your doctor that you have “to limit your activities” to the extent of not being able to take a few questions, shake a few hands and pose in a few publicity shots. Imagine holding out hopes that you can challenge for the Masters and, less than eight weeks out, being advised that your body cannot cope with sitting still on a padded chair for 15 minutes.
Woods is not stupid and will be acutely aware that social media will be having yet another field day at his expense. Originally his press conference had been due on Tuesday, was then put back to Wednesday and then cancelled altogether. “After receiving daily treatment the last several days on his on-going back spasms, Tiger Woods has again been advised by doctors to limit all activities and will not hold a press conference Wednesday,” the statement said. “It will not be rescheduled.”
Cue the mockery merchants, with one blogger concluding that the spasms must have spread to his voicebox. Except, it is not funny, it is sad. Indeed, this pathetic scenario perfectly sums up this stage of his career. And his manager, Mark Steinberg, only makes it worse. “This isn't about him not doing a press conference,” Steinberg told ESPN, pre-empting the taunts. “What is going to be accomplished? What is he going to say? That he hopes his back spasms calm down?”
Yah, that's right, Mr Steinberg, Tiger would probably have told us nothing. Like usual. Is the agent in the dark about Woods’s reputation when it comes to speaking to the media? Has he forgotten that less than two weeks ago in Dubai, Woods came off after a 77 and insisted he had been “in no pain at all”? For five hours we had watched him walking like an arthritic OAP and had clearly heard him making low, moaning “moo” sounds after hitting shots. What, was this yet another case of fake moos? It certainly seemed that way the next morning when he withdrew.
So, no, Steinberg should not effectively have said that it does not matter whether Woods spoke to the press or not. Because it does. It matters because the public still cares about Woods and if you don’t believe that one only needs to look at the internet traffic. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth still cannot even approach Woods's numbers.
Alas, so much of this interest is becoming increasingly morbid and cruel. The mean-spirited cry “karma” and “hubris” and claim that Woods is simply hanging on to keep raking in the contracts. Yet ask yourself this. If you had his money would you put yourself through all of this, through the agony and the scorn, merely to add a few more digits to your huge fortune?
Perhaps Woods will soon call it a day, perhaps that will be the only option. But right now he is fighting and he is losing. And that is to be pitied, not mocked.